FACTBOX-EU launches legal actions

Thu Oct 29, 2009 1:24pm EDT

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BRUSSELS Oct 29 (Reuters) - The European Commission started a wave of legal action against European Union countries on Thursday, ranging from a demand that Hungary change its legislation on car registration tax to warnings on pollution.

Below are details on some of the steps taken:



HOW IT WORKS

The Commission, executive arm of the 27-country European Union, starts an infringement procedure by sending a "letter of formal notice" to an EU state.

If the Commission is unhappy with the reply, it can send a "reasoned opinion", or a final warning, setting out why it thinks EU law has been broken.

Unless the country complies by a deadline, typically two months, the Commission can take the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the EU's top court. This can take two years.

For more details about the current legal actions, follow this link: europa.eu/index_en.htm.

TAX

* Hungary has a final warning to modify legislation on car registration tax which the Commission says discriminates against the purchases of second-hand cars from other EU countries.

* The Commission has formally requested the Netherlands amends legislation on a value added tax exemption for certain fundraising activities because it is being applied too widely.

* Estonia is being taken to court over its higher tax rate for low-income, non-resident pensioners compared to residents.

* Austria is being taken to court over tax provisions which allow donations to universities, art colleges and the academy of science in the country to be deducted as operating expenses but not for similar donations to comparable institutions abroad.

* The Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to France asking it to amend the optional derogation for declaring and paying valued added tax for non-established vendors and their clients, and bring it in line with the EU directive. * Portugal has been asked via a reasoned opinion to amend provisions which impose an exit tax on individuals because they are incompatible with EU laws on the free movement of persons.

* The Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to Poland asking it to change its administrative practice concerning the refund of value added tax to taxable people in another EU state.



FINANCIAL SERVICES

* The Commission is taking Spain to court over its failure to lay down proportionate and effective penalties in line with an EU regulation on anti-money laundering.

* Estonia is being taken to court because it did not implement the Statutory Audit Directive.

* The Commission will send a reasoned opinion to Luxembourg for not correctly transposing the EU market abuse directive into national law.



TELECOMS

* The Commission takes legal action against Romania for not respecting EU rules that require telecoms regulators to be separated from telecoms services companies.

* The Commission calls on the Italian telecoms regulator to ensure that regulatory obligations imposed on Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) promote effective competition.

* The Commission has formally asked Poland to comply with European Court of Justice ruling on telecoms subscribers' rights.

* The Commission is taking legal action against Germany for not implementing the Commission Decision on the harmonisation of the 2500-2690 MHz frequency band in the EU.



ENVIRONMENT

* Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain are being taken to court for failing to issue new or updated permits for over 1,500 industrial installations.

Austria, France and Sweden received written warnings over an additional 1,700 installations operating without permits.

* Estonia, Slovenia and Sweden have received written warnings over fine particles pollution.

* Ireland is being taken to court for failing to implement an earlier court ruling on quality standards for shellfish waters on the Irish coast.

The Commission has also sent a written warning to Ireland for allowing changes to development plans without a strategic environmental assessment.



STATE AID

* The Commission approves a Danish proposal to grant certain reductions from a new tax on nitrogen emissions for heavy polluters. It also opens an in-depth probe into the necessity and proportionality of an existing waste tax measure.



ENERGY

* The Commission urges Spain to apply a ruling to amend the functions of the Spanish electricity and gas regulator.



FREE MOVEMENT OF CAPITAL AND SERVICES

* The Commission takes Poland to court over special rights granted to the State allowing it to veto management decisions and appoint observers in certain companies.

* The Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to Bulgaria over its rules that restrict the free circulation of EU lawyers.

* The Commission takes Luxembourg to court over its failure to reimburse the cost of medical tests in another EU country.

* The Commission has formally asked Austria to comply with a ruling which said Austria breached EU law with its legislation obliging doctors to open an account at a specific bank.

* The Commission closes an infringement case against Austria after it removed a restriction on people from other EU countries from setting up companies in Austria.

It also closes an infringement case against Germany after German authorities changed rules allowing patent agents to provide their services without unjustified restrictions.



TRANSPORT

* Portugal is being taken to court for infringing EU legislation on charging heavy goods vehicles.



(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)



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